Calling God “Abba, Father” (Part 3)
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him “Abba, Father.”
In yesterday’s reflection, I talked about how the idea of God as father is difficult for many people because of their painful history of relationship with their own earthly father. In fact, I believe all of us tend to project onto God our Heavenly Father that which we experienced from our earthly fathers (and mothers, too, for that matter). To the extent that our parents were like God, this is fine. But where our parents fell short of this mark, as all human parents do, we can limit our knowledge and experience of God our Father.
Let me offer an example from my own life. My earthly father was a deeply loving man. When I was a little boy, he played with me, spent lots of time with me, and talked easily with me. But as I entered my teenage years, for some reason, my dad withdrew. Though I still knew he loved me, he had a very hard time expressing that love in words. I have no memory of my father ever telling me that he was proud of me. Shortly before he died, when I asked him point blank “Dad, are you proud of me?” even then he just couldn’t say the words. I’m sure his hesitancy had to do with his own wounds from his relationship with his parents. Nevertheless, the fact that my loving dad just couldn’t communicate his love to me left scars on my heart.
For years, I thought of God in the mode of my father. I knew that God in fact loved me. The Bible proclaimed it. Christ proved it. I believed it. But I rarely experienced God’s love for me in a way that touched my heart . . . and I had no expectation that God might make his love more real to me. Like my natural father, God loved me in fact, but not in expression.
As I have gotten more in touch with my issues concerning my own father, and as I have looked at the yearning within me to experience the love of my Heavenly Father, I have begun to open my heart to God’s love for me. There have been times when I have sensed God’s love for me as his precious child. I have even begun to be so bold as to ask my Heavenly Father to make his love known to me in a personal way, taking what I know in my head and moving it to my heart. This has begun to happen for me, and I trust it will continue as I grow in my relationship with God, my “Abba, Father.”
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: In what ways has your relationship with your human father positively shaped your relationship with God? In what ways has your relationship with your human father limited or tainted your relationship with God? Are you open to a deeper experience of the God who is truly your “Abba, Father”?
PRAYER: My dear Abba, Father, first I thank you for my human father. I thank you for all the ways he was a wonderful, loving dad to me. Thanks for all the hours he spent with me when I was young, for his humor, for his generosity, for his example of faith and service. In so many ways, Lord, my dad reflected your nature.
Yet you know ways in which he fell short. You know how hard it was for him to communicate to me what was in his heart, especially as I grew older. And you know, gracious God, how much I have shaped my knowledge of and expectations for you in light of my relationship with my dad. So I pray today, once again, that you will make yourself known to me in a deeper way as my Abba, Father. Where I still have wounds left over from my dad, heal those by your Spirit. Open my heart to you in new ways, so that I might know your love for me as your child.
Finally, help me, Heavenly Father, to reflect you to my own children. You know how hard this can be and how much I fail in this. So I ask for your wisdom, your patience, your strength. And where I fall short with my children, may your Spirit touch their lives. Help them to know the fullness of your love for them. Help them to know you as “Abba, Father”. I pray in the name of Jesus, who invited me to call you Abba. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.